FRENCH director Laurent Cantet deserves credit for showing another side of sex tourism — middle- aged white Western women procuring pleasure from young black men in 1970s Haiti — but it’s a pity the result is not a better film. There is a glimpse of what might have been in the opening scene, when a poor woman approaches an older man at the airport and begs him to take her 15- year- old daughter because ‘‘ being beautiful and poor in this country, she doesn’t stand a chance; they won’t think twice of killing me to grab her’’. The older man turns out to be Albert, head waiter at our sybarites’ preferred hotel. He’s waiting to pick up Ellen ( Charlotte Rampling) to take her to her room and her 18- year- old gigolo Legba ( Menothy Cesar). Ellen’s cool world is ruffled by the arrival of Brenda ( Karen Young), who has returned to look for Legba, with whom, three years earlier, she had her first orgasm. The women’s rivalry plays out in the shadow of Jean- Claude Duvalier’s regime, of which they are only dimly aware. This film has important things to say about the lives of women of a certain age, but I ended up not liking any of them. Their clunky, plotinterrupting monologues did not help. It takes courtly Albert ( Lys Ambroise) to return the film to where it should have been. Speaking of his grandfather, who fought the 1915 US occupation of Haiti, he says: ‘‘ If he knew I was a waiter for Americans, he would die of shame. Everything they touch turns to garbage.’’
Stephen Romei EXTRAS: Interview with the director; trailer Heading South ( M) Madman ( feature runs 108 minutes) Rental AS an investigation into Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1975 murder continues in Rome, it is timely to look at this neo- realist drama, made in 1962 at the beginning of his filmmaking career. Pasolini was a poet, left- wing intellectual and provocateur: he really upset people with his later works such as the gruesomely erotic Salo. But in the 1960s he was making films about social injustice, religion and life on the wrong side of tracks. He had a unique way of expressing his socialist opinions. In Mamma Roma, for example, he is never explicit, simplistic or didactic. Set in Rome, this story of a beautiful, vulgar streetwalker known as Mamma Roma ( Anna Magnani), who tries valiantly to lift herself out of poverty to give her son ( Ettore Garofolo) a chance of a better life, does have some melodramatic moments but also great beauty and subtlety. Few scenes in cinema are as telling as those in which Roma walks towards the camera on a dark city street, talking, as men drift out of the darkness and walk along with her for a time, then drift away again. The locations are sensational, around high- rise buildings built as slum clearance adjacent to crumbling Roman viaducts that create strange silhouettes on the horizon and hiding places for illicit games. Mamma Roma was heavily censored on its release in Italy. It must have touched a nerve with that country’s conservative gatekeepers: a bit too honest, perhaps. This DVD has the original uncut version and includes a documentary on Pasolini’s life and work that is an excellent companion piece.
Rosalie Higson EXTRAS: Documentary; commentary Mamma Roma ( M) Umbrella ( feature runs 95 minutes) $ 29.95 The Marine ( M) Fox ( feature runs 118 minutes) Rental ON its cinematic release in 2006, hordes of no- neck reviewers, who have probably never lifted anything heavier than doughnuts in their lives, lined up to lambaste The Marine . Sure, the film debut of former wrestler and would- be action star John Cena is not the greatest action movie ever made, but I’m not sure the problem lies with Cena. Hollywood’s traditional action stalwarts are all pensioners these days, running American states, opening restaurant franchises and taking up residency as guests on The Late Show with David Letterman . Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Seagal, Jean- Claude Van Damme and Bruce Willis are all ready for the knackery. And in their place? Well, practically no one. Presumably the diminutive but tightly built Daniel Craig will be tied up for the foreseeable future with Bond movies. So that leaves Marine star John Cena with a veritable sword of Damocles hovering above his stupendous shoulders. Cena plays John Triton, bumped out of Iraq and the Marines for disobeying a direct order. Eventually he gets to tick all the actionmovie cliche boxes when his wife ( Kelly Carlson) is abducted by jewel thieves. It’s silly, to be sure, and not redeemed by the presence of Robert Patrick ( Terminator 2 ’ s melting villain). But Cena does pretty well with the lame script. With more of his stunning physique on display, and given some decent lines, Cena has the quiet charisma, the biceps and the unbridled masculinity to leave at least Van Damme and Seagal cowering in his dust.
EXTRAS: Making of; trailers